Easy Baked Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

These juicy meatballs are baked in a simple homemade marinara sauce and are super simple to make. Serve them over spaghetti or make meatball subs. Buon appetite!

Everyone loves a little comfort food. When I want a delicious meal guaranteed to please everyone at the table, I always turn to my favourite, easy baked meatball recipe.

These juicy meatballs are baked in a simple homemade marinara sauce and are super simple to make. Serve them over spaghetti or make meatball subs. Buon appetite!

Juicy Baked Meatballs


To make my easy meatball recipe, you’ll need the following main ingredients:

  • Ground Meat: After years of experimenting, I have decided that pork is my favourite meat for meatballs, but you can use pork, beef, ground turkey, or even make ground chicken meatballs. They’ll still be delicious.
  • White bread: Using bread rather than bread crumbs in meatballs keeps them nice and juicy and prevents them from drying out. You’ll need to soften the bread in a little warmed milk.
  • Egg: Some people don’t believe in putting eggs in meatballs, but it helps keep them light and bind the mixture together.
  • Onions, garlic, and fresh herbs: When making meatballs, it’s important to cut the onion very finely to prevent them from falling apart. I often cheat and cut the onion in the food processor! Garlic can be replaced with garlic powder if necessary. I like to use fresh herbs like parsley and fennel seeds in my meatballs, but you can replace these with Italian seasoning in a pinch.
  • Tomato Passata: For the best sauce, use a good-quality jar of tomato passata (tomato puree). If you can’t find it where you live, run two cans of peeled tomatoes through the food processor instead.
  • Red Wine: Adds richness and flavour to the sauce. If you can’t have alcohol, replace it with beef or chicken stock.
Mince for meatballs

The complete ingredient list and detailed instructions are in the recipe card at the bottom of the page.

Meatballs rolled ready for the oven
Baked Meatballs fresh from the oven.


This is the best way of cooking meatballs as it is so easy! Let the oven do the work. To make my easy baked meatballs:

  1. First, stir together all the marinara sauce ingredients, then pour the sauce into a large oven tray or sheet pan (non-reactive, aka. not aluminium!) It’s essential to use one with a large surface area to reduce the sauce in the oven.
  2. Next, soften the bread with warm milk, then mix all the meatball ingredients in a large bowl. It’s best to knead the mixture with your hands (it helps the meatballs stick together), but if you are terribly squeamish, you can use a wooden spoon. Roll the meatballs slightly smaller than golf balls, then place them directly on the sauce in a single layer.
  3. Bake the meatballs in the top third of the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and the sauce has reduced. Meanwhile, cook your pasta according to the packet instructions, reserving ¼ cup of the cooking water.  Scrape the sauce and the meatballs into a saucepan, mix well with the reserved cooking water, then keep warm.
  4. When ready to serve, divide the pasta between plates, top with meatballs and sauce, and grate over plenty of cheese. To bump up the Italian flavors, garnish with fresh basil.
Juicy Baked Meatballs

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make bigger / smaller meatballs?

Yes, you can. For bigger meatballs, you’ll need to adjust the cooking time slightly. For smaller meatballs, you may need to cover the dish with tin foil for the last 5 minutes of cooking so they cook through but don’t dry out.

Can I freeze leftover meatballs?

Absolutely! Place any leftover meatballs and spaghetti sauce in an airtight container or zip-loc freezer bag and freeze for up to 6 months. I often make a big batch and keep portions in the freezer for emergency meals! Frozen meatballs can be reheated in the microwave or gently in a saucepan with a splash of wine, water, or stock.

Can I double or triple the recipe to feed a crowd?

Yes, but you’ll need to cook it on multiple trays. This recipe works because the high temperature and the pan’s large surface area allow the sauce to cook and reduce in the oven. You’ll also need to use the fan function and reduce the heat to 200°C / 400°F.

How can I tell if meatballs are cooked?

This length of cooking time pretty much guarantees cooked meatballs, but if you are at all unsure, either sacrifice one (yours) by cutting it in half and checking that the meat is cooked through, or (better) use a digital thermometer to check the meat temperature. Cooked ground meat should have an internal temperature of 71°C / 160°F. When you transfer the meatballs and sauce to the saucepan and keep warm, they will also continue to cook.

Juicy Baked Meatballs
Juicy Baked Meatballs
Juicy Baked Meatballs

Easy Baked Meatballs In Tomato Sauce

Juicy Baked Meatballs

Easy Baked Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Baked meatballs are the best meatballs! Cooking my Juicy Baked Meatballs and tomato sauce the oven means they are super delicious and never dry. Serve with pasta and plenty of grated cheese. Leftovers make amazing meatball subs. Yum!
5 from 8 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Serves 4


for the tomato sauce:

  • 700 g jar tomato passata
  • 125 ml red wine
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ​1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp mild chilli flakes or red pepper flakes

for the meatballs:

  • 1-2 slices white bread, cubed
  • 1-2 Tbsp bread crumbs, optional
  • 125 ml milk, heated
  • 500 g pork mince, ground pork
  • 1 red onion, very finely diced
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, crushed
  • small bunch of fresh parsley, finely diced
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
  • a few grinds of black pepper

to serve:

  • 500 g dried spaghetti or tagliatelle, cooked
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to taste
  • grated mozzarella cheese, optional


  • PREPARE: Heat the oven to 220°C / 425°F / Gas 7. Mix all sauce ingredients until well combined and pour into a rimmed baking sheet or very large casserole dish (see notes).
  • MAKE MEATBALLS: Place the cubed bread in a large mixing bowl. Pour over the hot milk, stir to combine, then allow the milk to absorb for 10 minutes. Add all remaining meatball ingredients to the bowl and head well with your hands until the meat mixture comes together and is slightly sticky. If very wet, add 1-2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs.
  • ROLL MEATBALLS: Roll the meatball mixture into balls slightly smaller than golf balls, then place them directly into the sauce on the tray in a single layer. You should get around 20 meatballs from this mixture. Drizzle or spray with a little extra oil, then bake in the top third of the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and the sauce has reduced slightly.
  • COOK PASTA: Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling water until al dente. Reserve ¼ cup of cooking water.
  • TOSS MEATBALLS: When the meatballs have cooked, toss them together with the sauce and the reserved cooking water, I find it easiest to transfer them to a saucepan and mix them in there (this is also good for keeping them warm).
  • SERVE: Divide the pasta between serving plates, top with meatballs and sauce and grate over plenty of Parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese if you like it extra cheesy!


It is essential to use a baking dish or tray that is the size of your oven. The large surface area of the tray is what allows the sauce to cook down and reduce.

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Serving: 5meatballs + spaghetti | Calories: 999kcal | Carbohydrates: 120g | Protein: 44g | Fat: 35g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 15g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 135mg | Sodium: 1.569mg | Potassium: 1.362mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 17g | Vitamin A: 499IU | Vitamin C: 22mg | Calcium: 192mg | Iron: 6mg
Tried this recipe?Leave a review or a star rating and let me know how it was! Use the hashtag #daysofjay on Instagram so I can see your delicious creations.
Course | Main Course
Cuisine | American
Jay Wadams
Jay Wadams

Jay Wadams is a cookbook author, food photographer and Le Cordon Bleu Gastronomy and Nutrition graduate. Based in Italy 🇮🇹 Germany 🇩🇪 and Australia 🇦🇺.

Articles: 340
5 from 8 votes (8 ratings without comment)

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